Scientists now say using NRTs & drugs alone will not help smokers quit

New research indicates that smokers trying to quit by using drugs like Chantix and or nicotine-enhanced patches, gums and lozenges are simply not effective for a large percentage of people. Scientists from the University of California in San Diego now claim that smokers who depend on conventional nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) and prescription medications without the additional support of professional counseling are far less likely to achieve success.

Even though there have been many clinical trials funded by public health agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) which show that NRTs are safe and effective, real life data seemingly indicates otherwise.  According to the study’s lead author, Dr. John P. Pierce, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the university’s School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center, NRTs are only effective when they are used in coordination with intensive behavioral counselling – a major detail that those television commercials tend to gloss over.

“This study strongly suggests that the lack of effectiveness of pharmaceutical aids in increasing long-term cessation in population samples is not an artifact caused by confounded analyses. There is a considerable literature of the efficacy of pharmaceutical smoking cessation aids; however, in these studies, the intervention is usually paired with smoking cessation counseling, which has been shown to be an effective intervention in itself. Thus, these results suggest a need for reconsidering how cessation assistance is provided at the population level, as the simple provision of pharmaceutical aids to smokers does not appear to be an effective way to increase the proportion who successfully quit for the long term.”

The scientists also note that their research results are both surprising and disappointing, given the fact that NRTs are marketed and supported by public health agencies with the promise that they will help smokers quit.  To review the study in its entirely, the paper entitled Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical Smoking Cessation Aids in a Nationally Representative Cohort of American Smokers is available in the Oxford Academic Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

More evidence that NRTs are not as effective as vaping

The University of California study is not the first to document comparable success rates of different NRTs.  Earlier this year, a UK group led by Dr. Jamie Brown of the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Research Centre came to remarkably similar scientific conclusions.  In the UK study, the researchers evaluated data compiled from nearly 6,000 smokers trying to quit via vaping, NRTs, and the old fashioned cold turkey method.

After 12-months of consistent monitoring and data collection, the UK scientists determined that vaping beats the other two methods by as much as 50% or more.  Oddly, the UK team also suggests that smokers trying to quit will benefit greatly from professional counseling.

“Among smokers who have attempted to stop without professional support, those who use e-cigarettes are more likely to report continued abstinence than those who used a licensed NRT product bought over-the-counter or no aid to cessation. This difference persists after adjusting for a range of smoker characteristics such as nicotine dependence.”

The UK study is entitled Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: a cross-sectional population study is readily available for review in the Wiley Online Library and in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NLM/NIH)


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